Release Date:  April 22, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language)
Genre:  Drama/Thriller
Run Time:    128 min.
Director:   Sidney Pollack
Actors:   Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron and George Harris
 
Much has been made during the last few weeks about director Sidney Pollack’s “unprecedented access” to the United Nations building in New York, so I guess no one should be surprised that the “The Interpreter,” while a decent film, also serves as a huge advertisement for the U.N.

Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), who grew up in the fictional country of Matoba (which has overtones of Zimbabwe), is one of the few people in the world to speak the language of Koo.  Fluent in other languages as well, Silvia works as an interpreter for the U.N.  One night, she enters a sound room to retrieve her bag and overhears two men whispering in Koo about assassinating the Matoban president.  A liberator turned dictator, Zuwanie has committed countless acts of genocide in his country and is arriving in a few days to deliver an important speech at the U.N., which will determine whether he is tried for crimes against humanity.

Secret service agents Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener) are assigned to the case, but Keller doesn’t believe Silvia, which causes some friction between the two.  It turns out that not only were Silvia’s parents and sister killed by the Matoban government, but Silvia also participated in anti-governmental marches and protests.  Keller even uncovers a photo of her toting a machine gun.  Chased by the would-be assassins, Silvia turns to an old photographer friend who has been working with her brother, her only surviving relative.  Soon, however, he is dead, along with several other people who have become involved in the case.  Zuwanie arrives for his speech under heavy security, as Silvia is trying to evade the killers, who are tracking her.

Sidney Pollack is an excellent director, with notable and varied credits like his 1975 “Three Days of the Condor,” “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa.”  And, while this film is mostly enjoyable, it lacks the heart-pounding drama a thriller should have.  The script works, but it also lacks credulity on a number of levels.  Even though I’m willing to accept the film’s premise, it’s still a bit ridiculous to think that two people would plot a major assassination in a room full of microphones – much less that Silvia, the only person at the U.N. to speak their rare language, just happens to overhear them.  The setup is even more absurd when you consider that, for some reason, she has stored her bag in an unlocked sound room, but has a locker that she uses throughout the day.  

We also learn that Silvia has a very political background, however the Secret Service doesn’t investigate this (they aren’t the ones to uncover the information, either), and somehow, this slipped past the U.N. as well, when they hired Silvia.  Later, when the assassination (which mimics the one in “The Manchurian Candidate” far too much) is about to take place, it becomes obvious that several major security violations must have occurred, but we aren’t offered any explanation about how.  Pollack makes his usual Hitchcock-style cameo which, unlike his role in “Tootsie” (as Dustin Hoffman’s agent), is wholly unnecessary.